This illuminating solo with songs could have left out its B-sides. Photo: Aly Wight
Pavilion Theatre, Dublin Theatre Festival
A quick review of Wind Resistance by Karine Polwart coming up just as soon as I help a robin ...
Early in Karine Polwart’s illuminating solo with songs, we’re given a vivid picture of a Scottish bog. From one spot in Fala Moor, you have a panoramic view that takes in a medieval church and Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. The descriptions are crammed with facts, you’d think you signed up for a sightseeing tour.
There’s a difference between clarifying pith and information overload but this co-production by Palwart and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre Company reaps some rewards later on. During a buoying melody, the bog’s importance in the history of Scottish maternal healthcare is unearthed. If Fala Moor’s power isn’t visible to the eye, Polwark intends to reveal it through stirring song and designer Pippa Murphy’s immense sonics.
The casual to and fro of a music gig is rooted by director Wils Wilson in something more disciplined: a research project conducted from a home office, occasionally invaded by birds through Sandy Butler’s ebullient videography. Rushing geese usher in the definition of ‘wind resistance’ as a pocket of air that protects members of a flock. An invisible form of protection becomes a potent metaphor for unsung health pioneers.
Mapped by dramaturgs David Greig and Liam Hurley, this is loaded with allegorical meaning but at the expense of structure. At 105 minutes, it doesn’t sustain its scattershot ideas. The bog as the ‘lungs of the earth’ remains an abstract thought. Polwark’s childhood and parenthood experiences are woven in on top of the story of an early 20th century couple living in Fala Moor. It’s astounding that the golden days of the Aberdeen football team fit in.
That’s not including several cameos by birds and plant-life, and the racing songs that on careful listening in the theatre are rushed and obscure. The impact gets lost in its flurry of symbols.
What did everybody else think?